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Riparian Ecosystem Creation and Restoration:
A Literature Summary

Planning

Baseline Data


Platts et al. (1987a) present a comprehensive set of methods used for evaluating riparian habitats, including techniques useful for collecting baseline data. Topics include sampling schemes, measuring vegetation, classifying riparian zone communities, determining various features of the soil, remote sensing, water column measurements, streambank morphology, measuring and mapping organic debris, historical evaluations, and use of benthic macroinvertebrates to evaluate stream riparian zone conditions. An appendix to this publication includes bibliographies, source materials, and repositories for information on historical riparian zone conditions.

Baseline studies are particularly problematic because little is known about the original condition of most rivers and streams. In degraded situations where historical information is insufficient to formulate a design format, the use of comparable areas that have been least disturbed and managed as natural areas may be necessary to guide the revegetation plan (Dawson 1984). Dawson (1984) discusses inventory techniques for assessing vegetative distribution patterns for formulating a working planting design. Such techniques involve a review of historical context and the selection of comparable areas to inventory for distribution, community and soil patterns, canopy heights, and elevational transects in relation to stream flow.

Knowledge of the geologic variability and geomorphological characteristics of drainage patterns can help predict water storage capacity for streams being reclaimed for riparian zone values (Skinner et al. 1985). Cairns et al. (1979) present an inertia index to determine a system's ability to resist displacement of structural and functional characteristics for two watersheds and an elasticity index to determine the potential of the system to recover should a displacement occur. Practical use of these models is limited by the paucity of information on organisms; however, they do point to the need to approach both structural and functional characteristics differently for major taxonomic groups.

Day et al. (1988) developed a conceptual model using the program TWINSPAN to describe relationships between vegetation (e.g., species richness, standing crop, amount of litter) and environmental factors (e.g., conductivity, water chemistry, elevation, pH, substrate) in riverine marsh vegetation along the Ottawa River, Ontario. The three main factors controlling vegetation composition were water depth, the effects of spring flooding in removing litter, and the fertility gradient produced by waves and flowing water. This information can then be used in the design of creation or restoration projects for Ottawa River riparian ecosystems.

Both site characteristics and the biological aspects of target species need to be considered in the management of riparian systems (Fredrickson and Reid 1986). Site characteristics include the climate (precipitation cycle, temperature ranges, length of growing season), soils (structure, fertility, topography, residual pesticides), water control potential (water supply/source, levees, control structures, pumps), plants (composition, structure and maturity, seedbank), and disturbance (man-induced perturbations, public use, research and management activities). Biological aspects of target species include chronology (migration, breeding, molt), nutritional requirements (population size, migration, breeding, molt), social behavior (foraging modes, breeding strategies), significance of location (local, regional, continental), status (endangered or rare, recreational value), and multispecies benefits.

Adamus (1987) presents an evaluation technique to identify the level of function of specific bottomland hardwood tracts in comparison to other tracts in the study region. This rapid assessment method involves rating functions that must be addressed under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act: water quality improvement, provision of fish and wildlife habitat, and maintenance of surface and groundwater quantity.

Another rapid assessment method is the Fish and Wildlife Service's Habitat Evaluation Procedures (HEP), which deals exclusively with wildlife or fish habitat functions. Several examples of the use of HEP are included in the WCR Data Base. Exum and Breedlove (1986) used HEP procedures to evaluate existing wetlands and propose design alternatives to maximize postdevelopment habitat for nonurban-adapted wildlife species within a 4,000-acre corridor along Shingle Creek in Orange County, Florida. Indicator species were chosen to represent various species groups of the corridor and included the barred owl (Stix nebulosa), white ibis (Eudocimus albus), pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), mottled duck (Anas fulvigula), American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), yellow-bellied slider (Chrysemys scripta), and largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). A mitigation plan and predicted changes in habitat units under this plan are presented. The plan was designed to maintain diverse, high value habitat in a contiguous system that would mimic natural riverine wetland assemblages and be maintained with a minimum amount of energy once constructed.

A modified version of HEP, the Pennsylvania Modified HER (PAMHEP), was used to establish baseline fish and wildlife values for the Manasquan Reservoir System Project in Monmouth County, New Jersey (Hinkle 1988). The resulting mitigation plan involved enhancing existing riparian habitat along the Manasquan River to replace habitat units (HU) that would be lost due to reservoir construction.

Collection of water quality parameters should be incorporated into baseline data collection and is particularly critical in reclamation of mined land. The Piney Creek Watershed Project involved the use of a water analysis program to determine baseline water quality parameters: conductivity, pH, and sulfate, iron, and manganese concentrations, parameters used by most regulatory agencies to establish effluent quality guidelines (Byerly et al. 1978). Samples were collected monthly for a year during nearly all conditions of weather and stream flow. Both fish and invertebrate surveys were conducted to provide baseline data. Reclamation plans for 13 surface mines within the drainage basin were formalized from large-scale aerial photography and field surveys. Planning was designed to minimize mechanization to reduce excessive disturbance of spoil, which might increase pollution. Revegetation plans were developed primarily to curtail erosion and siltation problems; in addition, the creation of usable wildlife habitat was an important facet of the revegetation of the mines. The plan called for planting trees and shrubs, seeding cover plants, constructing silt structures on mined areas and haul roads, and sealing two underground mines.


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